is the portal giving access to all government departments and some public bodies. But 13 of the listed non-ministerial departments
such as Ofgem still maintain their own separate websites. These organisations keep their websites at arm’s length from the Government and haven’t compromised their neutrality.
Not so for Ofqual or Ofsted. These websites are now part of Gov UK. And Ofqual wasn’t happy. Warwick Mansell
, writing in the Guardian
, reveals how ex-schools minister Liz Truss asked for Ofqual to be exempt from the move but Francis Maude dismissed her application. Minutes of an Ofqual board meeting
showed concern that Francis Maude's letter rejecting Liz Truss's request for exemption didn't 'accurately reflect Ofqual’s independence from Government'.
Ofsted, too, had initial concerns
about content which might be published on the Ofsted section of Gov UK. The inspectorate later claimed to be satisfied that the move wouldn’t compromise Ofsted’s independence. However, the Guardian
has found relations between Ofsted and the Department for Education (DfE) are now at ‘Amber-red’, the third of four coloured codes which describe how far an agency is ‘delivering the outcomes ministers and the public want’.
But Ofsted is not supposed to deliver what ministers want. It is supposed to do what it is legally mandated to do and no more. It is not there to carry out the wishes of individual ministers. This doesn’t augur well for the independence of Ofsted’s pronouncements on the Gov UK website.
Another organisation to be scooped up in the move to Gov UK is the Office of the Schools Adjudicator (OSA) which investigates complaints about schools accused of not sticking to the Schools Admission Code. When OSA had its own website it was possible to search complaints to find out how many were upheld in a given timescale and according to school type. This facility has now been removed.
Readers are presented with a very short list of schools
recently subjected to adjudication and a link to'our publications' (ie other schools which have been investigated). Readers would have to study each decision individually to discover whether the school was, say, an academy and whether the complaint was upheld. This makes it impossible to discover whether breaching the Schools Admission Code is more of a problem in academies and free schools than in other types of school.
This is hardly the transparency the Government says it promotes.
I asked OSA why it was no longer possible to frame searches. It replied that the DfE and the Government Digital Service
(GDS) had set restrictions on OSA when the site moved to Gov UK. I asked what these restrictions were but was told to ask the DfE or GDS. I have done so
16 January 13.19. The article originally said that ex-school minister Liz Truss had turned down Ofqual's application for exemption. This was incorrect. Liz Truss had actually requested that Ofqual be exempt from moving to Gov UK. Her request was rejected by Francis Maude, Minister for the Cabinet Office and Paymaster General. Thanks to Warwick Mansell for pointing this out.
I also said, 'Minutes of an Ofqual board meeting showed concern that the move wouldn’t reflect Ofqual’s independence from Government.' What the Board actually said was they were concerned that Francis Maude's letter to the Board rejecting Liz Truss's request for exemption didn't 'accurately reflect Ofqual’s independence from Government'.
The article has now been corrected.